The No. 6 Ocean Springs Greyhounds had hoped to answer a number of questions during Friday’s season opener against Brandon at Greyhound Stadium.
How would Malcolm Magee do replacing Drew Windham at quarterback? Who would step up to lead a renovated defense? Could one of the running backs separate himself from the pack and shoulder the load? How much will kicker Brad Wall be missed?
Unfortunately for Ocean Springs, while the Greyhounds got a few answers, they left the 45-10 defeat with perhaps even more questions.
For a young team that’s replacing 18 of 22 starters, the Greyhounds (0-1) probably couldn’t have drawn a more difficult opponent to open the season. The Bulldogs (1-0) return almost all of an 11-3 team and are ranked by some as Mississippi’s top team.
“I don’t mind playing those guys. We’re going to play caliber teams like that all year,” said OSHS coach Ryan Ross, who is back for his sixth season leading the Greyhounds. “Hopefully it’s a learning experience for us and all these new guys on the field. Now they know what’s expected of them.”
Ocean Springs played catchup from the opening kickoff. OSHS running back Daveaunce Gaines fumbled the deep sky kick and Brandon’s Vincent Butler punched it in from one yard out four plays later. It didn’t get much better from there for the Greyhounds.
“That set the tone. We have a lot of younger players who had to get broken in against a great football team,” Ross said. “Every small mistake we made was magnified because they are a good football team. We played very sloppy. Poor tackling. That’s a credit to Brandon. They’re strong and good players.
“We just didn’t play a very clean ballgame, and we really needed to against a team of their quality.”
Magee and backup Hogan Ross combined for three interceptions and, on top of a number of penalties that stalled drives, the Greyhounds lost three total fumbles.
“Nobody can win (like that) against average teams, much less a team like that,” Ross said.
Despite the struggles, OSHS was in the game early.
After Brandon quarterback connected with SchDarren Archie for a 20-yard touchdown strike early in the second quarter, OSHS pieced together a 12-play scoring drive. Magee capped the series with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Mississippi State commit Austin Williams.
Magee showed good awareness, avoiding a BHS pass rusher, rolled right and zipped a pass into the back right corner of the end zone. Williams high-pointed the ball over a defender and held on as he hit the turf.
“It was a scramble play with a breakdown in protection and Malcolm made a play with his feet,” Ross said.
The good feelings were short lived as Butler, picked up 82 of his game-high 203 rushing yards on the next play. The strong running back found a hole on the right side of the line, ran through a couple tacklers and sprinted for the end zone, putting BHS ahead 21-7.
The two teams actually traded fumbles on the next two possessions and OSHS kicker Ethan Utterback brought the Greyhounds within 21-10 on a 27-yard field goal at the end of the half.
Anderson connected with Bo Whatley for a 12-yard score to open the second half. Following Magee’s second interception of the game, Bulldogs running back Corey Proctor capped a 43-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. Proctor concluded the night’s scoring with 8:07 remaining on a 56-yard scoop-n-score. BHS also kicked a field goal in the fourth.
Magee finished the day 4-for-9 for 42 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. All of his completions went to Williams.
“It was all right,” the junior said. “I have a lot of improving to do. I missed a couple of reads, but it’s my first game.”
Added Ross: “I was pleased with Malcolm’s overall composure. I think he handled the game well. Obviously, he made mistakes just like everyone else. Overall, I’m pleased with his first game.”
The Greyhounds will look to get back on track Friday with a rivalry game at Pascagoula.
“In my mind, Pascagoula is going to be at least as physical if not more than Brandon,” Ross said. “That’s just the way they are. They have great players. We have a lot to fix. The first thing is personnel to figure out who is going to do what we ask them to do.”